Friday, June 4, 2010

Jazz... In A Very Vermont Way

Last night the 27th annual Burlington Discover Jazz Festival (#BDJF) kicked off with the opening reception at Halvorson's on Church St. There were quick remarks of welcome and thanks by Geeda Searfoorce - Associate Director of the Festival, Doreen Kraft - Executive Director of Burlington City Arts, Andrea Rogers - Executive Director of the Flynn Center, Tom Pelletier - president of Northfield Savings Bank, Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss, and Jeff Phillips - Chair of the BDJF Advisory Board. There were many thanks to the sponsors, volunteers, and staff who make the festival happen, including a standing ovation for Rogers, who is retiring from her role at the Flynn.

Regardless of the thanks, sentiments, and other remarks, every speaker agrees it's alllll about the music and, as with every music festival, someone's gotta go first. This year, the honor of unofficial opening act for the Festival went to local jazz band Project Organ Trio.

Like many of the groups, bands, trios, and projects playing 'round town at the festival, Project Organ Trio is an organic get together of local musicians. Drummer Dan Ryan is a regular at Radio Bean on Thursday nights with the Anthony Santor Group, organist Tyler Mast plays wit local band Bearquarium, and guitarist Harrison Shulman has hosted open jazz at Parima.

This is just the first of many BDJF gigs for the Project: you can hear them at Leunig's, American Flatbread, The Skinny Pancake, and Red Square, to name a few (for the full schedule, check the BDJF website or program in the 'Round Town section). You can even catch Tyler and Harrison, along with locals Craig Mitchell, Bryan McNamara, and others, as part of "Operation: Prince" a tribute performance at Club Metronome on Monday, 6/7, in honor the Purple One's birthday.

While Dan, Tyler, and Harrison have known each other and played together for years (and, in the case of Dan and Harrison, even been roommates), the incarnation as Project Organ Trio is very recent. I asked Harrison, since they're a new trio, how did they land the gig at the BDJF Opening Reception? He didn't really have an answer. He said it's sortof been a joke among the 3 of them - "how the heck did we get this gig, anyway?" As we tried to reconstruct the connections that led to Halvorson's - 'the BDJF needed a band for the reception, someone recommended us, so-and-so said 'yeah, they'd be great', some other stars aligned, and here we are' - we realized that it all came together, from one person to another, in a very Vermont way.

And that's true of the festival: local artists, community support, educational sessions, lots of free music, jazz in every corner of town, many experienced hands, lots of volunteers, prayers for good weather (and a determined spirit if the elements don't cooperate), residents, visitors, and even a shiny new statue to honor those who paved the way.

That is jazz... in a very Vermont way.

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